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Traveler Comments about Galapagos Cruises, Tours, Adventures, and Expeditions.


Comments posted here are editorial in nature, are the views of the people who wrote them, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the management and owner of LARC - Latin America Reservation Center, Inc.® - which accepts no responsibility for their contents. 
 

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July 25, 2017

[ concerning Galapagos excursion ]

The most amazing trip ever! It was beyond our expectations! Can't thank you enough for the recommendation and all the planning you did on our behalf!

With warm regards,

Karen and John  [Last name withheld in compliance with the LARC privacy policy.]
 

[ Reply from Judy at LARC: ]

WELCOME BACK KAREN!

BLESS YOU AND JOHN FOR SAYING SO! YOU MADE MY DAY!
 

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November 16, 2016

Hi Karen,

I wanted to update you on our trip. It was just great despite the last-minute cancellation of the Athala 2.  The Eclipse worked out very well with an excellent staff and 3 guides among the 26 passengers.  Three couples (including us) were refugees from the Athala

We were suspicious that the Athala owners were doing something similar to what the airlines do when there are two flights with few passengers: cancel one and put everyone on the other flight. However, they may very well have had a problem with one of the motors. Anyway, it was nice to have just 26 passengers (6 of us from Athala and one guide from the Athala) as the service was great, the food very good, the guides excellent, and the passengers a really great group of people. 

The Pikaia Lodge in Santa Cruz was incredible - a modern, soaring building reaching out from the top of a hill.  We only saw one other couple (in dining room) so suspect it was off-season.   Service and rooms were fabulous, and there is a spa there as well. Bernie asked about prices there. The most "economical" package is 3 days at $8000!  We so appreciate your local operator booking that for us so please thank him. 

Our time in Quito was very interesting.  The Plaza Grande was lovely and the staff very well trained.  I particularly wanted to tell you that our guide, Richard, the last Friday there, was so very good.  He gave us a wonderful education in Ecuadorean history and was delightful.  We especially enjoyed the Fundacion Guayasamin.  The Museo Mindalae was working on its  electricity so upper floors were dark; however, we were given free admission to explore the 1st floor.  Richard also took us to a museum in Old Town which traces the history of Quito.  We had
seen the Virgin with Wings, many churches, and Old Town with Hugo before we left for the islands.  Hugo also took us into the country to enjoy the small towns of Otavalo, Peguche, and Cotacachi.  We did meet the weaver, Jose Cotacachi, and had a wonderful lunch (with view of the peacocks) at La Mirage.  We did pay for entrance fees (very minimal) to the museums. 

The trip was great, and we certainly thank you and your local operator for the great work and attention to all the details. 

[Name withheld in compliance with the LARC privacy policy.]

 

 
January 27, 2016

Hi.

Just wanted to give you a little feedback on the trip.  The Peru part of the trip was flawless except that they didn't bother to make vegetarian box lunches for the day at Macchu Pichu.. in spite of the fact that the guide called whoever the night before to remind them.  We ended up eating a banana and a cookie. But other than that... the guides were great, the hotels were fine, and everything ran like clockwork. 

Weekend in Quito.. could have been a big problem.. except that Guiseppe at La Rabida stepped in and saved us!  When we arrived at his place he asked us what he could do to make our weekend great.  Then he did just that! He provided meals even when his cook was supposed to leave, he took us on a personal guided tour of the downtown area, and arranged that the night tour on Saturday would take us to the best places.. He even had dinner waiting for us when we returned at 10pm!  What a wonderful host! We felt like true VIP's! I've traveled to many places and have stayed in many hotels and B&B's.  But this was absolutely the best and most heartfelt experience that I have ever had. Thank you for arranging for us to stay at Giuseppes hotel! 

Galapagos was a little stressful at times. There seemed to be some communication problems going on. We arrived at the airport and there was no one there to meet us. I called the contact number and they said that someone should be there soon. they did show up 20 minutes later. On other days there were also some problems. One day the itinerary said that we'd be picked up at 6am... nobody showed until 7:15am. They said that they left a message at the front desk.. but we never got that message. 

The first day we were supposed to visit some lava caves.. we ended up sloshing through mud to a very small one that wasn't worth our time.  It would have been nicer to go to one of the bigger ones that you can walk through. The diving with Scuba Iguana was great as were the day excursions.  Guides were knowledgeable.  The hotel was fine. 

I'm not sure why they bother to include dinners in the Galapagos package though. On the 4 nights we were there... we were scheduled at 2 different restaurants. Both gave us mediocre set menus that we could choose from.  The first one (The Rock) took them over 2 hours to get us served (they weren't that busy) ..so the next time we were scheduled to go there.. we opted to go elsewhere and skip having to wait around again. The other restaurant.. also had a set menu.. but on the first night there they said there was no fish available.. so we settled for pasta. (not what I had hoped for in the Galapagos) The next time there (our last night in Galapagos) they said again that there was no fish. They had some story about El Nino or something and that there was no fish to be had. So, seeing the fish market with an adjacent outdoor fish fry a block away, most of us opted to go there instead. So, I think if people are doing a land based tour like we did... I would recommend that people fend for themselves for dinner.  There's plenty of good restaurants and street food available.  Why be roped into (and pay for) relatively poor set menus, mediocre service, and set eating times.  Doesn't make much sense. 

One last comment about the hotel food... probably not something you can do anything about though.. Every hotel seems to think that all we Americans want to eat for breakfast is the standard American breakfast of toast, cereal, eggs, and pancakes!  I wish, for once, that they would realize that part of visiting a foreign country is to enjoy the local foods and culture.  It would have been nice on occasion to have some tamales, quinoa breakfast, humitas, empanadas, etc. for breakfast. 

All in all, it was a great trip. We had a great time, saw amazing things, met some wonderful people, and even got to try Coca Tea, canelasso, and Choclo co Queso! ( I did not try the guinea pig!) 

Thanks again for everything. 

Steve  [Last name withheld in compliance with the LARC privacy policy.]
 

[ LARC Response: ]

Thanks Steve. 

I really appreciate the feedback.   Without hearing from good passengers like yourselves, we would never know how we can fine-tune our services for future travelers. 

So glad you enjoyed the trip overall.  Please give my best regards to the rest of your party.  Kind rgds, Judy
 

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April 01, 2014

Bueno, mi querida Sra:

Saludos y abrazos te manda Macario.  La Pinta... fenomenal!  love it!!!! los hikes y el snorkeling son un poquito fuertes but worthwhile!  Want to go back for the long itinerary.  Los guides buenisimos.  La cabina perfecta!  Acabamos de terminar de cenar en La Mirage... just when you think it couldn't get any better.... La Mirage is the cherry on the sundae!  El Sr. Colemere esta in heaven!!!!! The driver and guide, Antonio and Rafael... fantastico!!!!  Despues te cuento!!  I am tired and I am going to enjoy the fireplace :)  Gracias un millon por todo! Another dream vacation thanks to you!!!!! 

Besos y abrazos! 

Vari  [Last names withheld in compliance with the LARC privacy policy.]
 

January 17, 2014

HI Judy,

We returned from Ecuador on Sunday evening.

After we left the Hilton in Quito, we spent 8 days in the Galapagos.

We had a wonderful time and appreciate your excellent service.

If you provide other travel-related services, we would certainly get in touch when the occasion arises, so let me know.

Thanks for everything,

Judy
  [Last names withheld in compliance with the LARC privacy policy.]
 

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December 28, 2013

Hi Michael,

Arrived back in KS this afternoon, all 6 of us healthy and happy.  The upper Amazon, the Galapagos, and Quito were all simply highlights, each the best in their own way.  The combo was a kind of delicious sweet/sour gourmet meal. 

The jungle itself was much like Blue Creek site in rain forest Belize, but the addition of the Sacha Lodge was delicious.  I have a real good hypothalamic feeling about jungle, so this was like coming back home.  The guides, mostly indigenes, that took us around were simply superb: friendly, knowledgeable, energetic, yet patient with tenderfeet.  There was a nice mix of hiking and boat travel. Views from the two towers, lifting us above the canopy, were inspiring. Food was excellent.  We felt like we left friends behind. 

Miguel, who you had mentioned, turned his Quito guide duties over to Jon Paul, a very intelligent, low key, good humored guy, with stateside time in DC, and other places. We did go the the restaurant you recommended. It was the beginning of "Quito Days", and it was full of celebrating folks.  We were serenaded by a quartette musicians, and heard lots of singing on the main floor.  Gail did find some nice things at the Mercato.  Jon Paul spent more than his share of hours with us on the "half day trip" around the Old Town and the 00:00 line.  Jon Paul arranged for us to cancel our last nite at the hotel, due to an airline glitch having us change planes in Guayaquil, coming from Galapagos. The plane switch got our baggage lost, including several hours of time.  We decided to spent the remaining hours (before the flight back to US) in the airport.  This compromised the promised meeting with our Quito driver, who had planned to take us around.  But he magically appeared with some cash returned from the hotel, so we ate our last meal with the it.  No problem. 

Galapagos was the true biologist's Mecca! The Beluga ship and it's staff, i.e., guides, boatman, were truly faultless.  Darwin (given name, how nice!) Alvares was superb: very smart, with an extensive fund of knowledge and experience, very patient and good humored with duffers like us, who needed to hear an answer numerous times to the same question.  As you likely know, we were given opportunities for at least two activities each morning and afternoon, hiking and snorkeling alternatively.  Again, this took lots of energy and we all wished we were in better physical condition.  Guide Darwin was in great shape, keeping us from falling into the sea with every transfer from ship to panga.  The stark life and physical character of the islands was actually a shock, even after having read a lot about it. 

It was great to see Greater Daphne island, the site of the Grant's research.  I was impressed to see the Grant's 2008 book in the book collection of lounge of the Beluga.  Darwin, our guide, said it was his personal copy, a reflection of his depth of interest and commitment to continued learning.  Reflecting my teaching of genetics and evolution, one thing I found lacking in much of tourist-oriented literature about the Galapagos was more on the role of mutation, genetic heterogeneity and evolution in population genetics terms.  There is plenty of discussion and talk using the term "adaptation" but often it was couched in language of physiological, not genetic, terms.  Thus, the essence of evolution in populations, it seemed to me, easily escaped the attention travelers to the island.  The animals themselves, of course are interesting, but their key significance was often left hazy.  Again, the guides planned a nice mix of activities, and worked us pretty, and there were no complaints, but we finally needed to go home to KS to rest up! 

Lisa brought along an underwater camera that did stills and video. She is a high frequency shooter, so there are on record miles of video she took but has not seen much of. 

One general gripe about our air travel was that the midnight flight Quito to Atlanta was trying, especially with the tiny passenger space on the AirBus model used by Delta.  Sleep was difficult.  Different flight times and plane models might be considered. 

Michael, if there are specific items you would like me to reflect on, send me questions and I would be happy to give you my response by e-mail or telephone. 

Thanks so much for your being the real stimulus to realizing this great adventure.  Our group, with ages from 16 to 81, was agreed it was a delightful once in a life time trip.  Although it was the second visit for Lisa, and she sounded like she is already planning another trip there!

I hope we can keep in touch occasionally on items of common interest.  Gail, the printmaker and painter, has mentioned plans to do some art derived from the trip and that a piece of work might make its way to your address. 

In sincere appreciation, Wayne and Gail. 
 
[Last names withheld in compliance with the LARC privacy policy.]

 

November 18, 2013

Hi Judy.  The trip was amazing !!!  Absolutely amazing !!!!  Now I want to plan a trip to the Galapagos ... Can we start with what is the very best time of the year to go ??
Thank you !!!
Amy=
  [Last name withheld in compliance with the LARC privacy policy.]
 

[ LARC's Response: ]

HI AMY!

I AM SO GLAD YOU HAD A GOOD TRIP. I HAVE TO LET JACK HANNA'S OFFICE KNOW THEIR REFERRAL WAS WORTHY :)  YES, OF COURSE I WILL BE VERY HAPPY TO ARRANGE A TRIP TO GALAPAGOS FOR YOU! TO ME THE BEST TIME TO GO IS THE MONTH OF MAY IF YOU CAN DO IT.  THE WEATHER IS USUALLY PERFECT AND THE WATER IS CALM AT THE TIME (ALTHOUGH WE CAN'T PROMISE WHAT MOTHER NATURE WILL PROVIDE FOR SURE) LET ME KNOW WHAT YOU THINK & KIND RGDS, JUDY
 

October 28, 2013

Judy,

Back on Wednesday but has taken to this point to get time to send emails.  Trip was unbelievably incredible.  Mansion del Angel was unbelievable like being able to live in a museum from another time.. Our Quito guide, JP, was great and was able to get us to the changing of the Guard at the Presidential Palace on Monday.  Lunch at the Volcano was great but the mist didn't cooperate. 

The trip on the Galaven was awesome.  itinerary was fabulous and the boat and crew great.  Would highly recommend to anyone who wanted to experience the
Galapagos

The find of the trip was Su Merced in Puembo where we stayed on our return.  Not sure if you are familiar.  20 minutes from the airport which was great but the B&B is a 300 year old hacienda restored to its original character.  Made us feel like we were staying at a colonial governors residence.  Pablo was great and made sure anything we needed was provided.  Had what wife said was one of the best chicken dishes for dinner she had ever had.  The only thing that we regret is we didn't schedule an extra day to stay at Su Merced and enjoy its garden, hammocks and restful environment before getting back on a plane.. Next time. 

Thanks again for all of your wonderful help.  We will be talking to neighbors who want to do the Galapagos and I told them I would put them in contact with you.  When we go to Machu Picchu we will certainly call you.. 

Tom  [Last name withheld in compliance with the LARC privacy policy.]
 

January 28, 2013

Hi Doris,

Just wanted to drop you a line and let you know that Vicki & I had a fantastic time in Ecuador.  The crew on the Letty was great!!  Our guides were great, enthusiastic and full of information.  The accommodations on the Letty were very nice.  The meals were excellent. 

We also had a wonderful time at the Sacha lodge.  It was a fantastic introduction to the Amazon rain forest.  Our guide was very knowledgeable and truly enjoyed introducing us to all of the animals and plants in the rain forest.  The lodge was very comfortable. 

Thanks Again for all your help. 

We will definitely recommend you to anyone interested in going to Ecuador and the Galapagos

Mark  [Last name(s) withheld in compliance with the LARC privacy policy.]
 

January 10, 2013

Dear Judy,

This is late but as the saying goes: "Better late than never". 

We thoroughly enjoyed our trip to Quito, the Galapagos, Chinchero and
vicinities, Machu Picchu , Cusco and Lima. 

Thank you for making the arrangement for us to try the roasted "cuy" in Quito, Ecuador..  

We liked the La Casa Andina Private Collection Hotel in Sacred Valley, Peru.  For us, it was in the middle of nowhere but the view was fantastic.  The mountain, flowers and fruit trees around were just lovely. 

The cruise to the Galapagos on the Athala II was a lot of fun and adventure.  We met 14 well traveled and friendly people from U.K.  We were just like one big family.  The Athala II crew and the guide, Jorge Garcia, were all wonderful.  They all pampered us for the duration of the cruise. 

We were met by the affiliates there on time and we were taken to the airport promptly.  The services were excellent except for some problems with the staff at the Sonesta Hotel in Cusco [and] our group guide in Cusco, which were beyond your control. 

We were, also, very impressed with the short amount of time it took you to make all the arrangements.  As you know, we travel independently and it was such a pleasure to have everything pre-arranged for us everywhere! 

We have told our friends about you.  We hope that they would give you a call one of these days. 

We were so lucky to have found you. 

Deven and I hope to travel to some other South American countries in the future. 

Thank you so very much, Judy. 

Take care. 

Sincerely,

Tess and Deven  [Last name(s) withheld in compliance with the LARC privacy policy.]
 

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December 23, 2012

Hi Judy,

I just want to let you know that my trip was fabulous!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 

Everything went according to plan, not a single hitch.  I loved the Galapagos and loved Peru!!!!!! 

I loved Hotel Mansion de Angel as well as Sol y Luna!  CAPC was lovely in both Cusco and Puno (not sure why the on-line reviews were not good).  Inkaterra was lovely too (especially the grounds). 

I can't wait to have you help organize my next trip! 

Thanks again. 

Happy holidays, and all the best for 2013

Beverley  [Last name withheld in compliance with the LARC privacy policy.]
 

[ LARC's Response: ]

WELCOME BACK BEVERLEY,

I WAS WAITING TO HEAR FROM YOU, JUST IN TIME TO MAKE MY HOLIDAY HAPPY!  MERRY CHRISTMAS AND CAN'T WAIT TO PLAN YOUR NEXT TRIP.  HUGS, JUDY
 

December 09, 2012

Hi Everyone,

Here was our Galapagos Cruise group.  There were 14 Brits from London/suburbs and 2 Americans. The boat only had 8 cabins but they were very big cabins.  We had a great time.  Everyone was extremely nice and friendly.  We were like one big family. This picture was taken by our naturalist and guide, Jorge Garcia. 

The Athala staff was very friendly and attentive. It was the best cruise we ever had. 

We were free to see the captain at the bridge any time and he allowed us to pilot the boat when the water was calm!  We crossed the equator 6 times and we had a barbecue one night to celebrate that.  We were also, given certificates for crossing the equator.  We had lots of activities on board.  We had cocktail parties, lectures and videos each night, watched the sunset on board the zodiacs and having a picnic while watching the sunset.  Jennifer, our cruise director, was the bar tender on the zodiacs.  Jennifer was only in her 30's she was like our housemother.  She was the only female staff (total of 10 ).  We were sad when we had to say goodbye to everyone. 

Announcements were made when there was something unusual on the water.  One afternoon, the cruise director saw 2 humpback whales.  We all went out and saw LOTS of humpback whales just playing and feeding. 

This cruise was not a leisure cruise.  We worked hard daily - hiked, climb, snorkel, went to jungles, etc. It was a lot of fun but a test of our physical stamina. 

Love,

Tess and Deven  [Last names withheld in compliance with the LARC privacy policy.]
 

November 29, 2012

Hi Judy,

Thank you for forwarding the e-mail to Miguel and so promptly! 

I am actually considering a return trip to the Galapagos!  But, it would probably not be until Oct. of 2013 or even 2014. 

However, I am wondering if it is possible to hire a private guide for a day of sight seeing in Guayaquil? 

Once I learned more about it – there are things I would like to see. A lot of it would be walking distance from the hotel where I stayed, I think.  I could probably figure it out on my own, but it would be nice to have someone explaining things and probably getting me around more efficiently and using a car, when needed.  I don’t want to be part of a tour as I have specific things I want to see. 

Regarding the Galapagos: I would definitely stay in the same hotel.  I was soooooooo glad you chose that hotel when I saw some of the others there.   Silberstein was perfect. 

I would take probably only 2 boat trips (maybe 3) to islands I did not go to this time.  I would not repeat the walking tours.  I love them, but wouldn’t need to do them again. 

Anyway, if you have time to let me know the possibility of a private guide in Guayaquil I would appreciate it.  If it is possible, if you have any idea of approximate cost – I would appreciate that information.  Don’t spend a lot of time trying to find it out as this isn’t going to happen in the near future.  However, I do start planning trips...... wayyyyyy ahead. 

Thanks,

Donna  [Last name withheld in compliance with the LARC privacy policy.]
 

[ LARC Response: ]

HI DONNA,

I CAN’T TELL YOU HOW PLEASED I AM THAT ALL WENT WELL, SO MUCH SO THAT YOU WOULD LIKE TO RETURN!  THAT MAKES ME SO HAPPY, WE LIVE FOR OUR PASSENGERS TO BE HAPPY WITH OUR SERVICES.  YES, OF COURSE WE CAN GIVE YOU A DAY OF SIGHT SEEING IN GUAYAQUIL, AND EVERYTHING WE DO IS PRIVATE, WE DON’T BOOK ANY BUS TOURS.  I WILL ASK MIGUEL TO GIVE US AN ESTIMATE ON THAT BECAUSE I STILL DON’T HAVE THE 2013 TARIFF.  I WILL SEE WHAT HE WOULD RECOMMEND AND GET AN APPROXIMATE COST FOR YOU.  THEN I DON’T REMEMBER, BUT DO YOU HAVE A PROBLEM WITH ALTITUDE? BECAUSE I THINK YOU WOULD REALLY LOVE QUITO, IT IS SO COLONIAL, BUT THE ALTITUDE IS ABOUT 9,300 ABOVE SEA LEVEL. YOU COULD FLY INTO & OUT OF THERE INSTEAD AND THEN YOU COULD NOT ONLY SEE COLONIAL QUITO WHICH IS A WORLD HERITAGE SITE, BUT YOU COULD VISIT THE EQUATOR AS WELL AS SOME OF THE VILLAGES OUTSIDE OF QUITO SUCH AS OTAVALO, ETC. OTAVALO IS A VERY FAMOUS INDIAN MARKET NORTH OF QUITO, AND SOUTH OF QUITO YOU HAVE THE HIGHEST ACTIVE VOLCANO IN THE WORLD, COTOPAXI. JUST LET ME KNOW BECAUSE WE COULD WORK IT EITHER WAY, THROUGH GUAYAQUI OR THROUGH QUITO. 

I AM SO PLEASED THAT YOU APPROVED OF MY CHOICE FOR YOU IN GALAPAGOS AS WELL.  IT HAS SUCH A GOOD LOCATION AND AFTER GETTING TO KNOW YOU A LITTLE BY PHONE, I JUST KNEW IT WAS THE PERFECT FIT ACCORDING TO WHAT I COULD GLEAN FROM OUR CONVERSATIONS, AND WE WILL WORK IT OUT BOTH WAYS TO SEE IF IT WOULD BE LESS EXPENSIVE JUST BOOKING YOU ON THE NIGHTLY RATE AND ADDING A COUPLE OF DAY TOURS, OF COURSE YOU WOULDN’T NEED TO DO SOME OF THE TOURS AGAIN. 

I LOOK FORWARD TO HEARING AGAIN FROM YOU WITH YOUR COMMENTS ABOUT QUITO.

KIND RGDS, JUDY
 

November 29, 2012

Dear Miguel,

A very belated note to thank you for the superb service I received with the transfers during my recent trip to the Galapagos.  Each transfer went smoothly, the drivers were on time and very pleasant and helpful. 

My arrival plane was four hours late and I was concerned that no one would be there. But, he was and was very pleasant. 

The woman (I do not remember her name, sorry) that picked me up at the hotel in Guayaquil and took me to the airport for the flight to the islands was especially helpful with airport details when we arrived there.  She was very efficient in getting me through the process. 

When I returned to Guayaquil, the driver was very kind to pull off so I could get out of the taxi and take a picture of the large monkey sculpture. He was also very informative about Guayaquil. 

If I return to the Galapagos, I would certainly want to use your company for the transfers. 

When my first transfer went so smoothly my anxiety lessened and I could relax. 

Thank you so much. 

Donna  [Last name withheld in compliance with the LARC privacy policy.]
( Trip was Oct. 14 – 21. )
 

[ LARC Response: ]

HI DONNA,

GREAT! I AM SO GLAD EVERYTHING WORKED FOR YOU.  IT WAS A GOOD DECISION WTO GIVE YOU ALL PRIVATE TRANSFERS! KIND RGDS, JUDY
 

November 20, 2012

We have arrived from sea level of the Galapagos back to Quito and over 9000 ft. We are on our way to Cotapaxi National Park.  Cotapaxi is the tallest active volcano in the world at almost 20000 ft.  We horseback ride up part of the volcano tomorrow and then head to the jungle. 

Galapagos was great - swam with sharks fish beautiful sea floor and of course playful sea lions.  Saw all types of iguanas the blue footed booby the nasca booby many finches and the albatrosses were amazing.  We saw sting rays, sea turtles mating (swam with them a lot) giant tortoises mating and much much more. 

We loved Mansion de Angel and Quito.  Miguel and his group have been great.  Cormorant was first class - really only got two effective days on ship as were up at 5am on last day for 630 departure.  Galapagos Safari Camp was great. 

Couple of notes to pass on to Miguel - when go to Middle of Earth advise clients to have sunscreen and a hat when leave hotel or in itinerary.  There was a mix up either by Cormorant company or in the information they received from LARC - they apparently had us booked back on Aero Gal on Nov 17 straight from ship. I had asked Katrien at GSC to confirm our flights on Nov 18 and when we returned back that day she had pulled a rabbit out of the hat and got us on the last 2 seats today.  She saved the day

Anyhow all going great - looking forward to the rest of the trip. 

Happy Thanksgiving

Ken  [Last name withheld in compliance with the LARC privacy policy.]
 

March 08, 2012

Hi Judy,

Sorry about the credit card.. I did not notify Visa that we would be out of the country and therefore they assumed it was fraud. I have talked to them this morning and the freeze has been lifted so the charges should be permitted. Had there not been a power outage we could have solved the problem right then.   Everyone there was so nice I feel very badly this occurred.  Please let me know if there is a further problem. 

We could not have been happier with all the arrangements you made.  The Hotel Silberstein worked out well and as I said , everyone there is so nice.  The daily trips were very good, though the bus ride got tiresome.  The hotel in Quito was so pleasant.  I felt like home and Gloria did everything she possibly could to make our stay there perfect.  Thank you for making all the arrangements and making sure our trip went off without a hitch!!  It was just GREAT!!! 

Thanks again, Kathie
 
[Last name withheld in compliance with the LARC privacy policy.]

[ LARC Travel Tip: Be sure to notify your credit card company before leaving the USA to avoid unwanted holds on your credit card purchases or other charges made while traveling abroad. ] 
 

February 13, 2012

Dear Judy, We’ve been home 21 hours and are re-acclimating.  Our flights home went very smoothly.  We thank you so much for arranging the later flight from Miami (we cleared customs at 4 pm, obviously too late to make the connection that I made), which was a smooth 2 ½ hours, boosted by tail wind. 

The highlight was our visit was the Galapagos.  The Explorer II was better than we expected, including room, crew, great food, well organized, polite.  The two naturalists we had were pleasant and knowledgeable, and spoke English very well.  La Mirage was charming and our local tour by Juan Carlos was quite interesting (including purchases for Xmas presents at Otovalo).  Quito was also interesting and the Gangotena quite beautiful.  We ate dinner there with one meal (steamed sea bass) great and one meal (pork) awful.  The meals on the boat and at La Mirage were uniformly good to great, especially the boat. 

We would like you to thank Miguel, whom we got to meet the last day and to especially thank Juan Carlos, who hung in there.  Please forward this e-mail to them.  We want to thank you again for your patience and untiring efforts, which we appreciate and got us over the rough spots. 

All the best, Mel and Martha 
 

[Last names withheld in compliance with the LARC privacy policy.]

 

[LARC's Response:]

HI MEL & MARTHA,

I WAS JUST ABOUT TO CALL YOU TO SEE HOW EVERYTHING WENT.  I THOUGHT ABOUT YOU NUMEROUS TIMES OVER THE WEEKEND AND ASSUMED YOU MUST HAVE MADE IT OK.  THANKS FOR LETTING ME KNOW AND THANKS FOR YOUR REPORT, I AM COPYING EVERYONE THAT WAS INVOLVED IN TAKING CARE OF YOU AND THANKS FOR BEING SUCH GOOD CUSTOMERS. 

BEST RGDS, JUDY
 

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August 08, 2011

Thanks for a wonderful trip.

The hotel La Rabida was super.

Loved the Beluga and would highly recommend to any/all

Our naturalist was exceptional

thanks again for making this all work so well.

jim
  [Last name withheld in compliance with the LARC privacy policy.]

[LARC Response:] 

HEY PAULA!

IS HE BACK ALREADY? I LOST TRACK OF THE TIME. WELL THAT IS GREAT! I KNEW THEY WOULD LOVE IT, BUT IT IS ALWAYS NICE TO HEAR FROM THEM, THANKS FOR LETTING ME KNOW AND DON'T LOSE MY NUMBER, YOU CAN HAVE LOTS MORE SATISFIED PASSENGERS LIKE HIM BOOKING THROUGH US! :)

ALL THE BEST, JUDY
 

August 01, 2011

Judy, good afternoon. I've been remiss in not getting back to you after returning to CT. on 07.19.  My wife says you're a miracle worker.  Our trip went flawlessly. All the connections and flights were punctual and Aerogal is a great airline.  We got snacks and drinks on the 45 min flight from Guayaquil to Quito, and beer and wine was no charge.  Our drivers and guides were courteous, very friendly and especially informative on the sites and sounds of Quito and Imbabura Province.  We actually hired them for a free day in Cotacachi and surrounding areas.  It was $10/hour.  I couldn't believe it.  They also, didn't drive like the local population does.  Thanks God for that.  The locals are wacked out drivers. 

The Beluga and the Galapagos were better than we ever could have imagined. The crew and food were worth the trip on their own, but our naturalist, Juan, had to be the best one in the Galapagos.  We, and and the 14 others on board, truly enjoyed our daily trips onto the islands as well as the snorkeling around the islands and the insight he provided before, during, and after every trip. Now that we've been there, I wish they'd close it down so no other tourists could go. 

Kudos again on the La Mirage and Mansion del Angel.  Our first two nights at the Mansion we were the only guests they had I finally realized.  Didn't matter, they didn't cut back on the staff or service or not open the kitchen as some other hotel might do, we had 4 or 5 people at our beck and call at all times. The bad part is now my wife expects it at all times.  I'm exhausted.  I need a vacation.  La Mirage was just the same.  What a beautiful setting, and the grounds...  it's like going to a botanical garden, and you get to sleep there.  Food and service, 1st class.  When we got home I suggested we should go backpacking for a couple of days.  Diane laughed, looked at me and said, go ahead, I'm calling Judy.  Thanks girl.  Where to next? 

Stephen  [Last name withheld in compliance with the LARC privacy policy.]
 

[LARC Response:] 

I am still laughing at Diane's last comment!  You go girl!

I have lots and lots of places to send you, I can keep you busy traveling to South America for the next ten years and you still won't have seen it all! Thanks so much for the feedback, that is how we can assure our future clients of the top notch service we strive to provide. 

All the best, Judy
 

June 08, 2011

Hello Judy, hello Caleb,

I am glad to report that I am back in Germany safe and sound.  Well, actually not glad - I had a really really great time in Galapagos, I loved every minute of it and if it had been up to me, I would have stayed another 3 weeks J J.  

I'd like to take this opportunity to say a big thank you to both of you for your help and support.  Especially with the sudden itinerary-change, really great that you helped me there so quickly!  I enjoyed my time in Isabella, you were very right to recommend it, Caleb!  We did the tour to Los Tuneles and had close encounter snorkeling with the penguins, it was great fun J  

The hotels were all great; especially the Aventura was really lovely.  Great to see how well it was all re-done after the blow it took with the Tsunami, really very nice.  Staff there was most helpful and very kind, so I had a great time.  

The diving was also nice. Just one question concerning that: From what I learned the way this works is that basically every operator connects with the other operators on the island and then one of them does the tour to a certain destination that day, correct?  It's just something we'd need to advice our customers of, that's why I'm asking.  Is there any way of knowing in advance who will operate the tour that particular day?  

It's too bad we didn't get a chance to meet personally. But if you do get by Bremen again make sure you let me know - I'll have a large Becks ready for you ! J  

As for the part in Quito, I absolutely loved the Mansion del Angel!! Really a very nice place, I'll make sure I'll promote it to by best ability J.  The tour was also very nice and informative, got a good impression on Quito and what to recommend for our clients.  

Thanks you very much again!  

Best regards from rainy Germany  

Melanie  [Last name withheld in compliance with the LARC privacy policy.]
 

March 21, 2011

Judy, 

Thanks for your patience in arranging our trip.  This is our last night and we are staying in a fabulous room at Mansion del Angel.  The accommodations at all the hotels have been outstanding.  La Mirage was my wife's favorite.  She loved the country atmosphere and the small towns.  Galapagos was an adventure.  If I can advise another traveler interested in outdoor adventure I would recommend they do a cruise.  The Royal Palm was great.  Puerto Ayora was busy and fun.  Tortuga Bay beach is a must.  The walk to the beach in the sun was tough on the wife.  Enjoyed the Colonial Town area in Quito.  Heading out to a couple of museums.  Give you more when I get stateside.  

Carl   [Last name withheld in compliance with the LARC privacy policy.] 
 

[LARC Response:]

F.Y.I.  CARL, TSUNAMI WARNING LIFTED FOR GALAPAGOS, NO SUSTAINED DAMAGE-HAVE A GREAT TRIP! 

RGDS, JUDY
 

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October 05, 2010

Judy, 

We are having a most wonderful time thanks to your amazing organizational skills and knowledge... thank you so very much... no problemos con el presidente and todo los tiempo en Peru was wonderful (except for some food poisoning in the Valley-but will chat with you about that after we return) 

Young Americo was the best.... the very best guide... and our time in Quito wonderful... Casa Aliso as you know is such a treat... all the lodgings have been special in their own ways..  

Just wanted to catch you up on our sincere thanks for a wonderful time.. Off to Galapagos manana..  

Muchos gracias Judy..  

Maureen and Barry [Last names withheld in compliance with the LARC privacy policy.] 
 

[LARC's Response:] 

HI MAUREEN  

DON'T KNOW WHEN YOU WILL GET THIS, BUT SO GLAD ALL IS WELL! PLEASE GIVE ME A SHOUT WHEN YOU GET BACK AND LET ME KNOW HOW EVERYTHING WAS. HUGS, JUDY 
 

April 26, 2010

Judy- 

Thank you so much for helping us organize our stays at Mansion del Angel.  The hotel was absolutely beautiful.  I think we took pictures of every single room.  It was like a museum.  The people that work there are extremely gracious and attended to all our needs.  They arranged for taxis when we were in need and they were always very pleasant and priced reasonably.  

Our trip to Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands was incredible and your assistance help to make it so.  

Warm regards, 

Barbara and George [Last name withheld in compliance with the LARC privacy policy.]
  

[LARC's Response:] 

BLESS YOU BARBARA & GEORGE,

IT ALWAYS HELPS US TO KNOW WHAT OUR PASSENGERS THINK ABOUT OUR PROPERTIES, AND IT IS OF COURSE VERY NICE TO HEAR SOMETHING PLEASANT. THANK YOU FOR TAKING THE TIME TO GIVE US YOUR KIND FEEDBACK. BEST RGDS, JUDY
 

April 05, 2010

Hi Judy!  

...so here's the update.  La Mirage was lovely (not sure if we were upgraded, but the room was beautiful regardless), albeit not an easy lodge to locate.  Driving in Ecuador was a breeze, finding things like the Mirage, not so easy, but we made it just fine.  

As to the Red Mangrove...it is a perfectly fine middle-of-the-road hotel group.   I'm not one who likes being on a schedule, so that aspect of it was a nuisance for me, but the trips were well organized, the guides were nice, the food was fresh...it was well done, just not luxe.  The "cabins" on Floreana were very basic...and hot (no A/C and no electricity after midnight, so not even able to have a fan). The hotel in Isabela was perfectly placed on a lovely beach.  We were upgraded to a suite (upon my request because our assigned room was not nice) at Aventura Lodge and that was well worth it.  I would encourage your guests to book the ocean front suites for the trip. Worth the extra few hundred dollars to guarantee the best rooms.  Basically, my feedback is that is a perfect way to see lots of stuff in the Galapagos, be completely directed to do things at specific times, stay in a clean environment d not think.  

Personally, my preference would be (and I might just return and do this) to stay at the Safari Camp (I am SO, SO happy we changed and booked a night there at the end...it was beautiful) and book a private scuba trip for 2-3 days max and relax at the safari camp at the beginning and end.  My favorite part about the entire trip really was being in the water and the tent.  

Thanks again for all your help and I promise to reach back out to you next time I head down that way.

All the best, 

Carla [Last name withheld in compliance with the LARC privacy policy.]
 

March 07, 2010

Hi Judy, 

Back from Ecuador and Galapagos, and just wanted to say thank you for your help.  

The accommodations were excellent (Galapagos Safari Inn), and the tour guides and excursions were also great! What a wonderful trip.  

Thanks for all you did to make it possible. I would be happy to recommend LARC and your services to anyone who asks.  

Best, 

Peter   [Last name withheld in compliance with the LARC privacy policy.]
 

January 15, 2010

Judy....just thought I would let you know that Mr. [*] told me that Safari Camp was one of the most beautiful places he had been and everyone loved every minute of it.  He also said he would go back any time as it was a wonderful vacation.  Quotes "accommodations spectacular, food was wonderful and activates perfect for my family and the service was top notch".  So....just to let you and the folks down there know.  

I think I may have to go down and see it for myself. Might be good for an article or two for my blog let alone the newspaper I write for in Atlanta (Our Town Monthly).  I am going to be writing (hopefully) for another publication here in Flagler Co. (Florida) soon called The Observer (nationally syndicated from California).  So if any of your folks that need some publicity and its somewhere that I have visited or will visit in the near future....I am always looking for story ideas!  Thanks again for your help and the great suggestion of Safari Camp!

Pamela L. Walker, CTC, ATC, DS, LS

Member of the Travel Advisory Board - Saveur Magazine
Recognized by Conde Nast Traveler as "One of the Worlds Best Travel Agents"for 5 consecutive years! 

*   [Last name withheld in compliance with the LARC privacy policy.]
 

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April 02, 2009

Hola Judy, 

How ironic to get your email now....Mrs. Papantonio just phoned me.  She raved about this trip and said it was one of the very best they've ever taken.  They really enjoyed the accommodations at Royal Palm (also, they were the only ones on the yacht excursions and the captain went out of his way to show them things most people don't usually see); La Mirage (including the spa and two chocolate massages for the girls!); their driver/guide was great; the Galapagos islands and animals; and the Otavalo Market which was an eye-opener for their daughter about life outside the U.S.  

I could almost see her smiling through the phone as she was talking about the trip!  Please thank everyone for their excellence.  

Best, 

Karen   [Last name withheld in compliance with the LARC privacy policy.] 
 

[LARC's Response]: 

I AM SO THRILLED TO HEAR THAT!  

THANKS FOR LETTING ME KNOW, AND NOW I KNOW YOU WILL HAVE THE CONFIDENCE TO USE LARC FOR ALL YOUR SOUTH AMERICA BOOKINGS.  

IT WILL ALSO HELP SO MUCH FOR YOU TO SEE IT YOURSELF, SO I CAN'T WAIT UNTIL YOU GO AND HAVE THE EXPERIENCE, IT MAKES ALL THE DIFFERENCE.  

THANKS KAREN & HUGS, JUDY 
 

January 22, 2009

I wanted to say thanks for your help with my Galapagos travel.  The Beluga boat was comfortable and the staff was very professional.  The Guayaquil hotel was nice and in a perfect location for walking on my own.  The airport transfers were worth the expense on arrival, so that I could get a feel for the place without a language problem.  FYI - with the "four" day boat trip combined with an early flight off the islands there was no plan for me to see anything on the fourth day.  I was sorely disappointed.  Fortunately, the boat owner's wife saw to it that the naturalist got up early and gave me a solo tour of the breeding compound and George habitat before the other guests had breakfast.  Service above and beyond, in my opinion!

Carol K.
   [Last name withheld in compliance with the LARC privacy policy.]
 

January 09, 2009

Dear Donna and Miguel. 

I just wanted you to know our trip to Ecuador and Galapagos was great--exceeding our expectations. Gustavo and Enrique did a great job.  Thank you and them for working so hard to make this a memorable vacation.  

With best wishes, 

Baker Smith   [Last name withheld in compliance with the LARC privacy policy.]
 

January 08, 2009

Judie, 

The best tour guide we had was our driver back and forth to Cotacachi.  Our driver, Rafael was terrific.  His English was great, and he provided so much information along the way, about the land, local foods, plants, things to do and such.  As I said previously, we had a wonderfully relaxing time at La Mirage, 3 days was the perfect length of time.  Enough time for a horseback ride, massage treatments, Otavalo, Cotacachi, and relaxation.  

I could obviously write a short novel about the Galapagos as you can imagine.  The only points worth noting is that the Legend was on par with our other lodgings, as the service was great and the ship was beautiful.  It was a little rocky at times, but Lisa and I had prescription seasickness medication, so we felt fine, despite being a little off balance. The food on the ship was average at best, but we were there to see the flora and fauna, not eat gourmet meals (La Mirage provided that!).  

All in all, it was a wonderful experience, we were very well prepared because of all the work that you did for us.  

Thank you, and feliz anno Viejo/happy new year.  

Judie M.  [Last name withheld in compliance with the LARC privacy policy.]
 

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February 21, 2008

Dear Dom 

Thank you for your welcome home message. We arrived late last night after a long journey home. All the flights worked out very well with only a couple of delays due to bad weather in Dallas which did not upset anything and we were able to catch our connecting flights without a problem. The luggage stayed with us all along until we rechecked it in at Johannesburg for Cape Town where one bag went missing (welcome to South Africa!!!!) 

We really liked the Nautilus Explorer but found the dive deck rather cramped and having to climb in and out of the skiffs was a problem at times when the seas were a bit rough. We did not see as many mantas as we had hoped and Roca Partida was very disappointing with only a couple of sightings of sharks. We heard that they had found a lot of nets when they returned after the down season. So very sad. 

Ecuador and the Sky Dancer far exceeded our expectations!! We were met at the airport on time and found the Mansion Del Angel delightful. The next day a really lovely driver picked us up and took us to La Mirage. He was very kind and helpful and managed quite well with his English. There was no need for an actual guide. We had had lunch at La Mirage in 2002 and were so impressed then. You can imagine our delight when we realized it was the same hotel. Our suite was magnificent, the staff were dedicated and efficient and we had a couple of good massages. Our journey back to Quito was great with the arranged stop at the Indian Market. We flew to San Cristobal where we were met by the Sky Dancer crew. Dom, no exaggeration, we have been on many liveaboards, as you know but these guys and the boat are SIMPLY THE BEST. They could not do enough for us including the Captain who was always on the dive deck helping us get on and off the boat as well as helping us undress and handing out warm towels!! We just wished the charter could have been longer. Our cabin was great and the food was excellent. The sea conditions were good though the vis at Darwin and Wolf was not good at all. There was loads of stuff out there but we had difficulty seeing it. We did enjoy a dive being circled by hammerheads and dolphins close enough to film. Gordons Rocks was the best with good currents and everything to see thanks to better vis. Water temperatures were comfortable ranging from 25 degrees C down to 18 in the thermoclines. Thanks for the tip about wearing two hoods, I was not cold at all. We were with a great crowd, mostly British, one American, one guy from St Lucia, a German, an Italian and a Japanese. The German and Italian shared a cabin and their English was not very strong, as was the problem with the Japanese chap but they all got on so well together and became the best of friends, looking out for each other at all times. We found them delightful and Karlheinz was happy to have a fellow country man to chat with now and then in German. We all exchanged mail addresses and hope to keep in touch or at least pass on a photo or two. Our guide, Edwin, was well informed and we enjoyed the land trips with him. We were on the skiff with a young dive guide called Natasha who was fantastic. We were so sad to leave the boat but are looking forward to reliving our holiday when we down load our pictures and edit our video. 

Dom, thank you for everything. This was certainly one of our best trips. 

We will stay in touch! 

All the best from Mary and Karlheinz  
 
[Last names withheld in compliance with the LARC privacy policy.]

 

January 07, 2008

Hi Judy: We returned yesterday from Florida where we spent a few days recovering from our vacation!  

We had a wonderful time and want you to know how happy we were with everything, especially the guides and meets and greets at airports, train, hotel, etc. Everyone was there on time and were extremely professional and competent.  

We also checked out of the Doubletree one night early, so we could return to the US. We were tired and ready to come home, plus New Year's Day things were closed. We did like the J.W. Marriott on the beach as a better choice for location in Lima. There was shopping and it was a very upscale neighborhood.  

We are still telling our friends about Inka Terra. The suite was fabulous and we thank you so much for that wonderful experience. The Royal Palm, La Mirage and El Pueblo were all special in different ways. The staff at La Mirage were extraordinary, friendly, helpful and the Chef was superb! The dinners were all memorable!  

We were OK at Liberador until we went to the Monasterio. Definitely heads above Liberador and we would highly recommend it to our friends.  

All in all, it was great. My husband doesn't know how much it cost, but he is raving that he has never had better treatment anywhere in the world! And whatever it cost, it was worth it!!!  

love and hugs  

Faye  [Last name withheld in compliance with the LARC privacy policy.]
 

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November 28, 2007

Well if I could make you smile as much as YOU have made me SMILE brighter then maybe ever before.. I am a GLOW in the Galapagos and for Debra it was bliss I ADORE YOU GUYS I have to work immediately on march The Party of 8 are wanting to change some of the schedule to include a zip line day in the cloud forest instead of the roller coaster and to check the prices of to offer the same suite 602/604 with the kids (3) zander/and his 2 sisters) with Marianne / 2nd suite is (I guess I may have to call if ok because I am very swamped is that OK for y'all.)  

XOXO  


Really it was a very enlightening Big SKY Country and such sweet gentle people I cannot maybe ever be able to thank you ladies and your team of angels enough I have really to write a proper letter of thanks to send for the walls of fame- to tell how I had the three year old in me awakened to allow the youth to "grow your brain" as [Seth's] email is.  Anything is possible if you try.  

With Love, 

Renate   [Last names withheld in compliance with the LARC privacy policy.] 
 

[ LARC's Response: ] 

WONDERFUL!  

TAKE YOUR TIME WITH MARCH, ONCE YOU HAVE GOTTEN BACK TO REALITY, WE WILL
WORK THAT OUT TO PERFECTION! THE MOST IMPORTANT THING IS THAT YOU HAD A
GREAT TRIP. HUGS, 

JUDY & DONNA 
 

September 12, 2007

[regarding the Galapagos aboard the M.S. Cachalote]

Judy: 

Just a note, because I never followed up. It was wonderful beyond compare. Unbelievable. The best trip ever. We can't say enough good things. ONLY sorrow was that there was only allowed to be a total of 1 hour of kayaking the whole trip. Aside from that (and breaking my camera on day three) I am still, Daniel is still, beside ourselves. Thank you for bearing with us/me through the long process. I'd do it again in a heartbeat!  

Warmly,  

Jennifer   [Last name withheld in compliance with the LARC privacy policy.] 
 

July 30, 2007

We have just returned from a most perfect trip to the Galapagos, aboard the M.V. Beluga, 20-27 July 2007, on a photo tour with Arthur Morris.  The naturalist guide, Juan Manuel Salcedo, contributed so much to the success of the trip that we would like to specifically acknowledge this wonderful young man.  

Juan’s natural history knowledge is extensive, with a depth usually only achieved after decades of experience. He knows the islands as well as his own backyard. Not only is he familiar with the major animal species, but has a solid scientific grasp of plants, insects, marine and aquatic invertebrates, geology, history, and current management issues. He has excellent command of idiomatic English, and communicates effectively.  

His leadership skills were tested on this particular trip, as you are aware. From the initial injury incident on Española until the eventual resumption of our itinerary, Juan was extraordinarily patient and attentive to the passenger and to the rest of us. He exhibited an unusual degree of maturity for his age and we always felt that the situation was being handled well, given the resources available aboard the Beluga.  

On several occasions Juan was very helpful to us. One of our personal snorkeling masks leaked and he offered to locate a mask that fit better. It made all the difference in our enjoyment of the snorkeling experience. A leg of Steve’s camera tripod broke and Juan and the crew repaired it so well that no further repairs will be needed. When we dropped off the injured passenger in Puerto Villamil, her companions had accidentally packed Steve’s only pair of hiking shoes. Juan spent more than 2 hours in town locating the wayward shoes, not returning to the ship until he found them. We deeply appreciated his persistence since they were the only shoes that Steve, who has foot problems, can wear.  

We always felt well prepared for the daily activities due to Juan’s extensive briefings. He timed our landings and departures so perfectly that we actually managed to stay on schedule, no small feat when herding a group of photographers!  

In our opinion Juan Salcedo is a tremendous asset to Enchanted Expeditions and easily ranks among the best guides in the Galápagos. We will gladly recommend him to anyone considering a trip to Galápagos.  

Stephen and George-Ann
 
[Last names withheld in compliance with the LARC privacy policy.]

 

June 11, 2007

Hi Judy, 

Well, I've finally got myself back together after our fantastic trip. I can't possibly thank you enough for making such terrific arrangements for us. It was a special treat to actually meet you in Lima for dinner.  Everything went as planned- which is rarely the case when traveling in remote areas. The people at Chasquitour were wonderful. They even prepared a local foods picnic for lunch one day-instead of sitting in a tourist restaurant. The transfer men knew our faces after the first meeting and it was great to see them at every airport and train station ready to take our luggage. Machu Picchu is every bit as spectacular as you expect, but it is even better! We even had a sunny day. The Galapagos Islands were a wildlife enthusiast's dream. You just can't imagine how up close and personal you get with the animals. We were very impressed with the service on our boat The Eric. Every person knew his job and did it with amazing efficiency.  The food was abundant and delicious. Once again, thank you for making our 40th anniversary such a special celebration.  

Shelly and Les  [Last names withheld in compliance with the LARC privacy policy.]
 

February 12, 2007

Hi Judy,

Thanks for helping make this the best vacation both I and Andrew have ever taken. Every single arrangement was right on the money--no delays, no missed connections, no surprises. Everything went like clockwork, and for that we are grateful to you and your agents.

We had wonderful times in Patagonia, Guayaquil and the Galapagos. In fact you might say we left our hearts in So. America!!

All the Best,

Ron
  [Last name withheld in compliance with the LARC privacy policy.]
 

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December 31, 2006

Ecuador  

Here is another report from our vacation. I hope it's helpful and not too annoying.  

The flight to Guayaquil was easy and the airline was just fine. Even though it's six hours we thought of it as just a little longer than LA, so very doable. The Hilton Colon in Guayaquil is fine and our guide was great, took us to a nice restaurant etc. but Guayaquil is not a city worth hanging out in. I had heard nightmare stories about the flights to Galapagos but we found them, very efficient and easy.  

One note. We were never told of a $100 per person Galapagos entry tax. With six of us that's a lot of cash off the top so travelers should be warned. We were met by Rafael, our guide, who is very knowledgeable, calm, and serious. Strong accent, but we got used to it.  

We took a short bus ride to the harbor and took a dingy to the Sea Cloud. Our hearts sank when we saw the accommodations. Four rooms of the same size. 2 in front, 2 in back by the engine. Tiny cramped rooms with bunk beds, I had remembered pictures of the Rachel and remembered that it had 2 rooms with double beds and 2 rooms with bunks. In any event the Sea Cloud was just too small for even six of us and I can't imagine if we had brought 8.  

One suggestion, bring AS LITTLE LUGGAGE AS POSSIBLE. There is no storage space for bags etc. And don't come if sleeping with your wife or lover is an important part of your vacation. The crew seemed nice enough but we realized that there were 6 of them! Captain, first mate, engineer, cook, crewman and guide. So there were not enough beds for them. This meant that at any time of day or night we would find them sleeping on couches or on deck. This offered very little privacy and no chance to escape. Even the bow deck of the boat was not equipped with cushions for hanging out.  

The distances between the Islands are sometimes 6 or 8 hours so the plan was to sail, under motor, at night. But this made it impossible to sleep. Motoring in a sailboat is way more nauseating than sailing because of fumes etc. And sailboats can only motor at half the speed of a motor yacht and are much less stable. The girls all got sea sick and opted for sleeping on deck. We gave them the patch and told the captain that we would no longer be sailing at night.  

The bottom line is if you are not going to sail, don't take a sailboat. There are beautiful, fast, spacious motor yachts that get you between the islands in half the time.  

Now a few word about the Galapagos. AMAZING, INCREDIBLE, AWESOME, MIND BLOWING. We had some of the most memorable experiences of our lives. Encounters with animals unlike any other in the world. Everyone should go, but as Rafael put it, "the Galapagos is not an easy vacation" Up every day early to hike or snorkel, lunch and then back at it in the afternoon, but every outing was better than the last, and the memories will last forever. We tried to think of family members and friends that would have enjoyed the trip and they were few and far between. You have to be ready for boats and a lot of activity, but if you have the energy it's so worth it and very safe. The animals are very friendly because they are not threatened by humans. Even the SHARKS are friendly! We were very happy to have the Satellite phone as it enabled us to make calls as our plans changed. It worked very well considering that we were in the middle of the ocean in the middle of nowhere. We stayed in a cute hotel in town called Solymar. Brand new and inexpensive, but clean and comfortable and the owner, Renato, will do anything for you.  

So bottom line get a good boat, or stay on land and do day trips (although you will miss some amazing Islands) Get a good guide, because they know the secret places and how to avoid the crowds. Pack light and bring a good camera with an underwater housing if you can.  

We found the trip to Quito pretty easy but the landing in the Andes can be a bit bumpy. The drive to La Mirage really drives home the notion that you are in another world. La Mirage is a beautiful place. In a small town that specializes in leather goods. It has nice gardens and every room is different. Charming, cozy with fireplaces and hot water bottles in the foot of your bed at night. The food is fine, not great. The spa is OK. They try hard but they weren't the best treatments we ever had. Unfortunately the pool is indoor and the exercise equipment hasn't worked since the 80's.  

We went for a beautiful walk up into the mountains and found a little Indian village. The Indians are tiny. Barely 4 feet tall. But very friendly. It's great to explore Otavalo, the Indian market. They have beautiful handcrafts, rugs, scads, etc. for dirt cheep.  

Our guide Miguel was very knowledgeable about the area and took us to some out of the way villages. Guinea pig is the local delicacy but we passed on that one. The mountains are spectacular and we lucked out with the weather but either way tacking on an Andes visit to a Galapagos trip is definitely worth it. 

KB 12/31/06   [Name withheld in compliance with the LARC privacy policy.]
 

September 28, 2006

Galapagos trip had a great boat (Aida Maria). The guide was an excellent naturalist.

Dan
  [Last name withheld in compliance with the LARC privacy policy.]
 

September 11, 2006

Donna - we had the BEST TIME EVER!  

The jungle was fun and Kapawi was quite nice and the Galapagos were just amazing. 

We couldn’t believe how nice the Evolution was and chock full of interesting people: A Member of British Parliament, Joan Didion’s Assistant, and Crazy-rich International Financier...It was too much fun. The guides were great and we snorkled almost everyday. We were going to go to Banos for a couple of days, but because of the volcano we went to the Hacienda San Augustin de Callo instead for 2 nights. It was terrific and Cotopaxi stunning (although I nearly died climbing up it - there’s no oxygen there.)  

Now I’m broke and must go back to work. Very sad. See attached happier time.  

-Sandy & Brian    [Last names withheld in compliance with the LARC privacy policy.]
 

August 01, 2006

We loved Ecuador and the Galapagos!!!  The land trip was just right and the guide, Henry Richard Espinosa, was terrific. We had a medical emergency and he helped us get through it wonderfully.  We really like Cochasqui better than Ingapirca because it's the real thing, not just some restoration.  Cochasqui is completely intact as the ancient people built it.  The Evolution is an excellent boat with a really nice crew, good food, and just the right number of passengers.

All in all, we'll certainly recommend this trip. 

Gladys
 [Last name withheld in compliance with the LARC privacy policy.]
 

July 14, 2006

Dear Janie, 

The trip was fabulous!  The Beluga was great and all the crew members were outstanding. The food delicious, all the crew members went out of their way to make us comfortable, and I must say, a group of photographers is a high maintenance group. They lugged our equipment safely in and out of the dinghy, had meals and snacks waiting for us. It was super. Our guide, Juan, was the best. He was so knowledgeable, and there wasn't a question he couldn't answer.  He was flexible, allowing us to do pretty much what we needed to, to get our photographs, within the limits of the Nat'l Park rules. 

We had a once-in-a-lifetime experience and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. Metropolitan Touring was also great. The people we were in contact with went out of their way, giving us their phone numbers to contact them with any difficulties. They made the transition so much easier, being in a foreign country. They arranged for private transportation, and an individualized tour on two separate occasions, once in Quito and again in Guayaquil. A great experience. 

We also went to Sacha Lodge. Our guide, Miles McMullen was a bird expert and did a great job. We also had a native guide who was very adept at sighting birds and all kinds of wildlife. Every day was filled to the brim with adventure. Pirhanna (sp? ) [Piranha] fishing, jungle hikes, hikes to the top of the canopy, even a night hike to seek out tarantulas, bugs, and frogs. Wow. Will try to send you some images. We sure have a lot to go through and edit! Hope to meet you someday. Maybe an African tour??? 

David  [Last name withheld in compliance with the LARC privacy policy.]
 

June 28, 2006

Dom: Thanks for contacting us!  

First of all, what is your new venture: "diveadvice.com"? (I don't seem to get a web sit when I go to that address?)   

Second, Bob and I had a great time on the trip.  

Our time at La Mirage was terrific, and all of the plans went off without a hitch and as advertised. The Heils and we went horseback riding and took advantage of the spa facilities one afternoon. The food was good.  

La Cartuja had received all of our reservations accurately and were accommodating as usual.  

The diving was fantastic (this is our second trip to Galapagos): We were thrilled with a significant whale shark encounter on our first day at Wolf. She was a BIG girl. Unfortunately we had only one other whale shark sighting on scuba (a juvenile) and one sighting at the surface. That was my biggest disappointment but out of everyone's control, of course.  

However, the other shark activity was truly remarkable. During 8 full days at Wolf and Darwin, we had significant numbers of hammerhead sharks on every dive. In addition, at Wolf, the Galapagos sharks were everywhere, and we had encounters with black tips, white tip reef sharks, and silky sharks (too many in that case!) We literally dropped in looking at sharks from the first moment.  

Dolphin, turtles, schooling fish, and sea lions were all abundant depending on where we were. The water was warmer than I expected in the northern islands at this time of year; the southern/central islands were a mixed bag. Roca Redondo was freezing, with poor visibility and limited life. That was probably the worst diving, and I know it can be outrageous depending on currents and other conditions. Cousins Rock was awesome as always.  

Bob and I were very happy with the Sky Dancer's Captain Rafael, naturalist Jaime (who had been one of our naturalist/dive masters on the Lammer Law in 2002) and dive master Kike. Service overall was good. The food was fine, particularly the lunch and snacks. The housekeeping service in our room was excellent.  

Dom, thanks for all your help. As we said before, your detailed planning on our behalf was a significant relief for us. Again, we wish you the best, and please let us know about your new position.  

Kind regards.

Jacqueline  [Last name withheld in compliance with the LARC privacy policy.]
 

June 28, 2006

Judy Judy Judy !!  Thought you might like to see this very positive feedback from Skip's clients who loved all your arrangements. 

Thanks, Dom

----------------

Dom, 

Well we had a most delightful time in Ecuador, thanks!!!!! I particularly wanted to thank you for all of your help in arranging our plans for the week prior to the Galapagos travels. I copied the notes you sent in reply to my various questions about hiking, etc & reviewed them on the trip to help us figure out where to go (you supplied enough details about hiking in Banos that our guide asked if he could join us . . .I got a map from travel shops in Banos which helped us determine various paths to take for our hike up to view the volcano there ... )   

We adored our guide!!  He was pleased to join us on the rafting trip . . . his 1st rafting trip!!  By the way, the raft trip was quite fun (& the folks leading the trip were both professional & heaps of fun!!!!!) We made two more hiking trips in the Andes (to the Refugio at Cotopaxi & then to Imbabura near Cusin's Hacienda . . with a guide from the area). After feeling rather good about having a fine mainland stay, we were actually swept away (i.e. all was so very easy) and arrived without any work on our part, in the Galapagos on board the Sky Dancer. What a great crew (all of them) . . .so very friendly, hospitable, with such caring attitudes . . . a wonderful place to be for 2 weeks!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  Loved the boat . . . all was made so very easy in all ways for us.  Oh my gosh, just a fairy tale!!!!  

The diving was quite fun; the surges and bit of current made it adventurous!!  Schools and schools of hammerheads . . . again unbelievable!!!!  Saw everything underwater possible . . . no complaints in this department!!  The only issue was that Skip couldn't get his itinerary approved; consequently, we had to forgo many of the intended land trips. I think that I would have preferred to take more land trips, although I was quite satisfied with the panga rides (we saw such wonderful things from the zodiac!!!!)   

Thanks for being right there for us . . . Are you still in this line of business??  If so, please let me know what trips you might organize as we would love to go to Indonesia as well as to Truk & Palau.  Arrange any trips in Australia??? 

We would love to stay in touch!! 

Thanks again!!!!! 

Joan & Marsh   [Last names withheld in compliance with the LARC privacy policy.]
 

June 27, 2006

Judy,

Dave here. Just wanted to thank you for all your help with our Ecuador trip. Every part was truly wonderful. We loved the Cachalote and the Galapagos. Our guide was amazing and fun. That said, if we could do it all over again, we probably would not go back to Sani Lodge (which had been totally our choice). They didn't have a lot to do during the afternoons, no electricity in the rooms, and they were a four hour boat ride from Coca (other lodges aren't so far). We heard much better things from other travelers about Sacha lodge. Also, La Mirage was over the top fun, but we probably would only stay there one night, as those four course meals take a long time and it was expensive.

Thanks again,

- Dave  [Last name withheld in compliance with the LARC privacy policy.]

ps do you handle Bolivia?  I'd love to go there some day.
 

June 12, 2006

Hi, Judy and Miguel and Mike,

We made it home late last night. Thank you again for all your excellent work in organizing the trip for my students and others. Everybody learned so much and had a great time. For the evaluations they completed for the university, your logistical support and the travel and food and accommodations and guiding were all rated extremely highly.

One of the days in the rainforest we all went to 2 parrot licks downriver in Yasuni NP, then went to the home of one of the indigenous guides (Donaldo, in the community of Pilchi), where we interacted with his family and met the village schoolteacher and saw the school, infirmary, common building, etc.; and then took a 3 hour hike back to Sacha. This was a nice change from the regular Sacha guided tour sites, and the students especially liked the more strenuous hiking and seeing so many parrots.

Miguel: Jose was an excellent guide at Sacha Lodge. He was quite good at Otavalo and the highlands. And he was only moderately good for the old town Quito tour; I don't think old churches and art work are really his thing as much as birds. Also, I think he rushed things quite a bit to be done in time for the football game between Ecuador and Poland (which many in our group were also excited to watch).

Judy: special thanks to you for finding the San Jose. We had a very good experience on it. The free-lance guide they retained--Efrain Zambrano, a class III naturalist from the highlands of Santa Cruz--was terrific. And unlike other great guides from the past, he didn't proposition the women all the time, which saved me some headaches. I was really glad to see much more of Isabela Island than I had in the past (paddling in the mangroves at Bahia Elizabeth and seeing beautiful hawksbill turtles and large groups of spotted eagle rays was especially memorable), as well as Floreana Island, which was new to me. We experienced very rough seas on the south coast of Isabela all the way over to Floreana, and again from Floreana over to Espanola--which we were told was quite unusual for this time of year.

The San Jose fit the bill for us very well. But just so you know for the future, I'll offer a few comparisons with Ecoventura boats. SJ: except for guide Efrain and bartender/meal server Jefferson (both from Galapagos), all 9 other crew were from Guayaquil and spoke Spanish only; and only a few of our group were fluent in Spanish, so our group didn't interact with the entire crew as much as on Ecoventura voyages. SJ: the cabins were more spacious but less fancy in terms of woodwork, fittings. The food was equally good, but the dining room wasn't as formal on the SJ. And the SJ did not have chairs/benches to sit on up near the bridge for us to look for whales, dolphins, etc.--only the backwards-facing recliner lounges up on the sun deck.

So, all in all, a great trip, and I am very appreciative to you all for your terrific work in setting everything up.

Cheers, Tom
   [Last name withheld in compliance with the LARC privacy policy.]
 

June 02, 2006

Hi Judy, 

We are back from Galapagos, it was a great trip. Got to see all the animals on my list. Happy to be home to eat good tasting food and drink the water.  I met another one of your clients.  Nancy from Las Vegas. 

Thank you, 

Paula  [Last name withheld in compliance with the LARC privacy policy.]
 

May 22, 2006

Donna

Just wanted to sent a note to tell you thanks for all your help with the Galapagos / Ecuador trip. We all had an incredible time. Everyone involved with helping us was very kind. Our driver, Ernesto, was especially awesome and we all enjoyed him very much. 

Thanks again from all of us

Wendy   [Last name withheld in compliance with the LARC privacy policy.]
 

May 10, 2006

Thanks for your help. The tour in Quito worked out well. The Rachel was special - 8 of us with our own boat with crew and naturalist.  Definitely the way to go. Unfortunately, Ellen broke her wrist on Santa Fe [Island] on our last full day, but she still raves about the trip.  My daughter, who states that she's anything but a nature girl absolutely loved it.

Hope all is well.  

Ira   [Last name withheld in compliance with the LARC privacy policy.]
 

January 29, 2006

Our trip was wonderful and exhausting and very educational.  All the arrangements you made were excellent and flawless.  Miguel is a very accommodating and responsible agent and tourguide.  The sites for meals (Cienega, Puerto Lago) and lodging (Fuente Piedro, Pinsaqui) were each unique and very hospitable.  Otovalo market is delightful (we could have used more time), with a few actual artisans interspersed among scores of secondary vendors.  Visiting the nearby crafts towns generally exposed us to a higher level of craftsmanship.  Miguel took us to the studio of a weaver in Peguche whose work was outstanding (and now well represented in our house in Ithaca).

Sacha is a delight, but is very different from the naive perspectives we had of the jungle.  We saw many fewer exotic species than we'd anticipated, but this was due to our lack of understanding about diversity and numbers. Outstanding staff, excellent food and lodging.  The trekking is a bit arduous - lots of getting into/out of canoes, the footing on the trails is often uneven, and there is some extensive climbing.  Mary Lee was able to keep up with most, and the guides were very accommodating to her special needs.  The 2.5 hour trip along the Napo is delightful.  If someone wants to see lots of species of toucans and exotic birds up close, they should go to Bush Gardens, but for an easy and enlightening adventure this is a wonderful place.  

Ecoventura is a first rate organization.  The ship was clean, the food and other service were outstanding, and all the staff were very friendly and helpful.  Everyday there were small extras provided, which added significantly to the individual and collective enjoyment of the passengers.  Here again, our guides and crew were very attentive to helping Mary Lee on/off of the pangas (twice daily) without disrupting the activities of the other passengers.  The uniqueness of each of these islands must be seen to be appreciated. 

Some of the passengers on the lower deck reported having air that smelled of diesel and also mentioned the noise from the engines as being disruptive, but our upper deck rooms were very airy and bright, and also more convenient.  I think some air purification system was not functioning properly, but you might want to mention this to future clients.  We were very glad to have paid the extra $$ for the upper deck rooms.  We are infrequent travelers to such exotic places, so a little extra investment to enhance the comfort is worth it.  

On our last day in Quito we hired a guide from Sacha (who was home on break in Quito) to take us to Bellavista and a nearby orchid farm and also a private hummingbird reserve (owned by Tony Nunnery, who leads tours for Victor Emanuael).  We were not especially impressed with the Bellavista lodge, but the other two sites were fantastic.  The bird house has recorded the greatest number of hummingbird species per day of anywhere on earth, and we saw about 15 species.  

That's it in a capsule.  Again, we thank you for all your efforts to make this journey easy and enjoyable for us.  We hope 2006 brings you much happiness.  Please let me know if you are ever coming by Ithaca.  Cornell has a very active herpetology club, and they might be particularly interested in meeting with someone of your experience 
and interests.

Drew
   [Last name withheld in compliance with the LARC privacy policy.]
 

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November 22, 2005

We just returned from a week at the Royal Palm and were delighted with the magic of the place.  If you seek elegance and comfort and something quite different, the Royal Palm is a good choice.  We were upgraded to a Villa which is a four room house.  Besides the very large bedroom, living room (with a fireplace), enormous bathroom (separate rooms for the w.c. and large shower) there is an equally large [whirlpool hot tub] room with surround windows that overlook the surrealistic views.  We checked the Veranda room which we had originally booked and found it to be beautiful, just smaller, with a [whirlpool hot tub] outside.  The Royal Palm is a romantic and quiet get-away. The staff is attentive, and the setting amazing.  Being in the highlands it is subject to the Garua depending on the month.
It has a mystical mist. 

Martha
  [Last name withheld in compliance with the LARC privacy policy.]
 

Received: September 19, 2005

TRIP REPORT - ECUADOR AND THE GALAPAGOS
AUGUST 12-29, 2005


Friday, August 12th - Departure and Introduction

Jan and I left Washington National Airport around 2 pm on Friday, Aug 12. American Airlines flight to Miami (2 and 1/2 hours), followed by a short lay-over and a very long walk between gates and another American Airlines flight (3 and 1/2 hours) to Quito, the capital of Ecuador, arriving around 8:30 pm. We were met by our tour guide, Miguel, and taken on a relatively short drive to our hotel.

First, a few words about Quito. It's a large city (pop around 2 million), and the capital of Ecuador. It's around 30 miles long (north-south) and only 4 miles wide. Basically, it sits on a high Andean plateau, at around 9,000 feet, in the midst of several large volcanoes. It is a very beautiful setting. In the morning, we looked out our window onto the two large and still active volcanoes, the Pinchinchas. The most recent eruption of these was in the late 1990's and covered the city in ash. The whole area is very active, geologically speaking. Apparently, there are daily "earthquakes" in Quito, but none strong enough to even be felt. The last big one was around ten years ago, seriously damaging several cultural heritage sites. The altitude is high enough that you really notice it. Particularly when climbing stairs. There were mornings that I really felt the hike up and down the two flights of stairs in our hotel (no elevator). I don't think anyone on our trip ever got really altitude sickness (headaches, etc). But we all knew we were up pretty high. In comparison, it is about 1,000 feet higher than the village at Snowmass, Colorado where we have skied.

Our hotel was lovely. We used the same hotel (and actually stayed in the same rooms) whenever we came back to Quito. It was called Mansion del Angel. It was very comfortable. Large rooms, comfortable beds, large showers with lots of hot water, etc. Very nicely decorated. Very helpful and friendly staff. And not terribly expensive. Roses were everywhere. It turns out that, after petroleum products, Ecuador's largest export is roses. When you drive around the highlands, you see all these huge greenhouse complexes that grow roses for shipping to the US and around the world. In Ecuador on the streets, you can buy 25 roses for a dollar. As a result, our hotel was filled with huge bouquets of beautiful roses. And the odor of roses was everywhere. Whenever we were in Quito, we had breakfast on this wonderful, glassed in terrace with views of the mountains.

To read more of this account, Click Here
 

July 15, 2005

Dear Donna,

What a great trip.  All the arrangements you made came off with out a hitch.  Every time I arrived at the Quito Airport our car and driver were there to greet us.  Monica and Raphael were most gracious and brought two vehicles to carry all the baggage.  They also arranged dinner for us one night at La Ronda.  Raphael drove us over and picked us up.  Was reasonable in his charges and always prompt and on time.  The hotels were clean comfortable and offered very personal service. 

Del Angel always had our rooms available and ready.  Our luggage that we did not take out to the Galapagos was left in our room and they stored it and put it back in our room when we returned. 

La Mirage was wonderful.  We had the spa to ourselves and used it extensively.  I did a lavender soak and massage, a Swedish massage, and a facial. All were wonderful.  We thoroughly enjoyed La Mirage.  The meals were a treat in themselves.  The wine list was good and we have no complaints. 

The planning and reservations that LARC did for us were professional and crisply carried out.  We could not have ask anymore from you and Judy, the hotels, or the drivers. 

Thank you for making our trip such a success.


Mack
  [Last name withheld in compliance with the LARC privacy policy.]
 

Received: July 11, 2005

Galapagos and Guayaquil, Ecuador
June 12 to 24, 2005


Joan planned this exciting and educational trip with grandchildren to Ecuador and the Galapagos Archipelago. The travelers were Joan and I, Gage and Lily C., Hanna W., Florence D., and Michael I.. On Sunday, June 12, Joan and Tom flew to Houston and met Hanna, who flew in from Dallas, and Lily and Gage, who flew in from Denver. We met Florence and Michael, who flew from Boston to Houston. The flight connections went smoothly. We left Houston at about 7 pm and arrived at Guayaquil a little after midnight, June 13.  (Continued...)

For more read: A Personal Account of a Family's Visit to the Galapagos Islands and Guayaquil, Ecuador - June 12 - 24, 2005 
 
[Last names withheld in compliance with the LARC privacy policy.]
 

April 21, 2005

Judy,

We are back from Peru. Other than the slight hiccup on the return Galapagos flight, everything came off flawlessly. We actually got on the flight, although it was uncertain until we got to the airport. The Royal Palm has a lot of clout at the airport and with TAME.

Your colleagues in Lima, and Cusco were very helpful. And, we particularly liked Lucretia, our guide in Cusco/Machu Picchu. Both of us got the bug for 24 hours during the trip, but it didn't slow us down.


Thanks so much for your help in planning and pulling together the trip. You were very enjoyable to work with. I think we will return to South America in the coming years and we will certainly call you when we do.

Regards,

Dan
  [Last name withheld in compliance with the LARC privacy policy.]
 

[ Response from Judy at LARC below: ]

HI DAN,

THANKS FOR THE REPORT. I WAS TRACING YOUR EVERY STEP FROM HERE. THE NIGHT WE SPOKE WHEN YOU WERE IN GALAPAGOS, I CALLED PERU TO HAVE THEM LET ME KNOW WHEN YOU ARRIVED, WHEN I RECEIVED THE CALL, YOU CAN IMAGINE MY RELIEF! ALLS' WELL THAT ENDS WELL!

I LOOK FORWARD TO YOUR NEXT TRIP TO S.A. BEST RGDS, JUDY
 

March 21, 2005

Dear Judy;

Thank you, thank you, thank you for cabin 8 on Beluga! It really was the penthouse. It was strange, almost all the 14 people on the boat were tall and slim like us, so they envied the roominess of cabin 8. However most of them were comfortable, just found it noisy when traveling at night with the engine running.

Silvia, our guide, was really good. She is passionate about the islands and being from Switzerland, she talked freely about the government of Ecuador and how it handled (or mishandled) the Islands park. She is dead set against these bigger boats of 90 people. We saw one pull in at one anchorage and it really is an assault on the fragile islands environment. If you and other brokers can book passengers on the small boats only, maybe it would help.

I can't think of anything to change on the trip. We had two landings a day and snorkeling almost every day. The cook was excellent and was attentive to the few people who had dietary restrictions.

La Mirage is something else, isn't it? Wow. We spent too much money in the leather town and we really enjoyed those few days in the market towns. I must say we were glad we spoke some Spanish. We needed it in Quito.

Thanks again for helping us with a memorable trip.

Fran and Greg
  [Last names withheld in compliance with the LARC privacy policy.]

-----------------------

[Response from LARC: ]

HI FRAN,

SO GLAD YOU ENJOYED THE TRIP!  I LIVE FOR THOSE GOOD COMMENTS, IT IS WHAT MAKES MY JOB WORTHWHILE. 

BEST RGDS,

JUDY
 

February 22, 2005

[To Judy at LARC:]

Thanks for all your amazing work in taking such good care of my client Randy.

Cheers, Dom

[Dominick Macan]
[Reef & Rainforest France]

-------------

Hi Dom,

What do you think? Do I look like a vaquero?

If I could sum up this trip with one word it would have to be 'flawless.' I liked the country; I liked the people; I liked the culture; and I absolutely loved the diving. In the annals of my diving experience I have rated just 4 sites as the proverbial 10.

  1. The eastern fields of Australia
  2. Palau ten years ago
  3. The whale shark encounter off Myanmar last year
  4. The first two dives off Wolf and Darwin

customer Randy in the Andes mountains in Ecuador - volcano Cotopaxi is visible in the background

Wolf and Darwin far exceeded my expectations. On the first dive in the morning at Wolf we were greeted by schooling Hammerheads, Galapagos Sharks and a very close encounter with Dolphins. At Darwin, on the first dive in the morning, we saw a Whale Shark. Each dive was a truly unique experience where I saw something I had never seen before. The currents at both dive sites made for some wild drift dives but they were fun! The boat could not have been better. The crew was outstanding and so were my diving companions.

As I am sure you aware, there is usually one person who is voted the jerk of the week. On this boat there was no such vote because there weren't any!

I must commend you and Tuula for the incredible [I'm starting to run out of hyperboles] land package you put together. Once again, I don't think it could have worked out better. At Cotopaxi, where the picture of me on horseback was taken, I saw an Andes Condor [according to my guide] and an Ecuadorian Wolf with a rabbit in its mouth! LARC tours were absolutely fantastic! When I arrived Miguel, the owner and one my guides, explained to me the there were two different ways of keeping time, Regular and Ecuadorian. To his, and his employees credit, he adhered to the former.  They were never late. They were also very friendly and went out of their way to make me feel comfortable and welcome in their country. The ocean plus the land portion added up to a perfect vacation. I would not hesitate to visit the country again. It remind me very much of Costa Rica except with more variation.

So Dom I think you realize by now that as far as my arrangements for any future trips go there is only one company I need to do business with. I am not independently wealthy and am only entitled to one vacation a year because I have to work for a living. It is absolutely essential that I maximize the dollar value of my trips. I know with you and Reef and Rainforest that I get what I pay for. In the immortal words of the Governator "I'LL BE BACK!!!!!"

Your friend

Randy
  [Last name withheld in compliance with the LARC privacy policy.]
 

January 27, 2005

Hi Judy,

I wanted to tell you that the Arizona Audubon really enjoyed the Floreana, its food, and service. I received many good reports on it!

Thanks,
Cheryl
  [Last name withheld in compliance with the LARC privacy policy.]
 

January 14, 2005

Hi Judy,

Audrey and I want to thank you for all the hard work and effort you put into making our holiday in the Galapagos Islands so wonderful. The Royal Palm Hotel was fantastic and the people were so nice and friendly they couldn't do enough for us. We would have to say that it was by far the best place we visited and will always treasure the memories we have of the place and not forgetting the people.  Everything went according to plan and the flights with TAME were great.  If we were thinking of doing more Latin American holidays say Peru / Machu Picchu / Inca Trail would you be able to help us with that. Let me know as we would have no hesitation in dealing with you again.  Hope this note finds you well and eagerly looking forward to 2005. 

All the very best,

Wilma/Audrey from Scotland 
 
[Last names withheld in compliance with the LARC privacy policy.]

 

January 10, 2005

Hi Judy

Thank you for helping me with Galapagos trip.

I thought [Mansion del Angel] was a gem and enjoyed the hotel, one I will definitely recommend to clients.

I liked La Mirage and thought it was an excellent location. The room and food were excellent. The spa left something to be desired and I expressed this to the person in charge. The staff was excellent.

The Eclipse was wonderful and the food was excellent. Better than I had on the Isabella II. The staff, the ship etc. were excellent.

So you can see I thoroughly enjoyed.

Thank you

Donna
  [Last name withheld in compliance with the LARC privacy policy.]
 

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November 1, 2004

Just a quick note to let you know that we had the BEST honeymoon ever. We felt taken care of and pampered every step of the way. Thank you for making our honeymoon as perfect as our wedding.

I have to also RAVE about the Beluga yacht. The yacht itself was beautiful and the crew was outstanding!!! 

If you need any testimonials from travelers or info please do not hesitate to use Rob and myself. We will gladly answer any questions or just gush about the Galapagos.

Sincerely, 

Charlynn 
[Last name withheld in compliance with the LARC privacy policy.]
 

July 6, 2004

Judy,

Thanks to you and LARC for all of your help in planning my trip to the Galapagos Islands. The trip was great. I would highly recommend the Cachalote and Enchanted Expeditions to anyone traveling to the islands. They exceeded my expectations and were far better than many North American outfits that I have traveled with. 

Unfortunately, I am ready to go again! Maybe Chile and Easter island in a year or so? 

Thanks Again,

Chris
[Last name withheld in compliance with the LARC privacy policy.]

----------------------

[ LARC Response: ]

HI CHRIS,

WOW! I CANNOT BELIEVE YOU ARE ALREADY BACK!

SAVE YOUR MONEY FOR NEXT TIME, EASTER ISLAND IS EXPENSIVE TO GET TO, BUT OF COURSE WE CAN HELP YOU IN CHILE AS WELL. THANKS FOR LETTING US KNOW WHAT YOU THOUGHT ABOUT THE TRIP! 

BEST RGDS, JUDY
 

June 8, 2004

Dear Judy,

Cathy K. and I are extremely happy with the way our trip of May 14-May 28 turned out. All of our guides and hotel people met us right on time at the airport and right on time to take us back to the airport. We had 9 flights! So, it is amazing that it all went so well.

When we flew into Quito we pulled up right before touching down--there were some bad winds. After making a big circle we tried again and this time we landed safely. Later, other flights had to go to Guayaquil instead. All of our pilots were wonderful. The airport tax was always sort of a pain. Our guide at Lima got us through that process. Later, at Quito we waited in one tax line only to find out that you had to have your boarding pass to be allowed to pay the airport tax---but fortunately American Airlines let us pay at the counter so we did not have to line up again. 

Our accommodations were excellent. The little Hostal La Rabida in Quito was wonderful and convenient to a big shopping street and within walking distance of the wonderful Galeria Latina. Cathy didn't like our guide very much, but I thought he was fine. He just wasn't as intellectual as our other guides. Our Cuzco guide knew everything, our Machu Picchu guide took good care of us and gave a great tour (and the Machu Picchu Inn was great--we had the best room with its own garden at the top of the steps). 

A funny thing--every hotel room seemed to be split level--a step up to the bathroom so we had to keep a light on at night so that we would not fall if we had to get up. 

The six-stop Cuzco afternoon tour was definitely grueling. Our guide was very knowledgeable and easy to understand, but I think three stops would have done it. Cathy was a little ill by the sixth stop and when we got back she threw up 3 or 4 times. The Hotel Prisma clerk said we should summon a doctor--but Cathy did not want to and she was fine by morning. But they did not offer oxygen, which many hotels do have. This hotel was convenient and lovely, with a big atrium, and the staff was very friendly and helpful--but the towels were on the raggedy side and the toilet broke twice--once I fixed it myself. The guide reconfirmed our flights for us. 

The Vista Dome train to Machu Picchu was wonderful.

When we got back to Cuzco our wonderful guide, Odelia, I think, unexpectedly and fortuitously met us at the top of the valley, so we did not have to do all the time-consuming switchbacks to get back to our hotel. 

The next day was our bus trip with a different guide to the Sacred Valley of the Incas, with many sites to visit. 
We had a big buffet lunch at a lovely hacienda--but immediately afterwards we were expected to climb to the top of a 1,000 ft temple--very bad for people's health on a full stomach. Cathy and I decided to wait prudently at the bottom and we missed this opportunity. So, wouldn't it be nice if the climb could take place before lunch. The market town with 8 sq blocks of interesting artistic creations was marvelous. But we were definitely tired by the time we drove to see the village at 12,400 feet with more folk art--and more steps for us to climb. Then back to Lima for the Gold Museum and City by Night Tour--and where we hired our guide to come again the next day and take us to the museum of anthropology and to the Pachacamac archaeological site. 

Then on to Quito and the Galapagos. The boat Floreana was excellent. The crew was wonderful, the food was excellent, and we had both a sun deck and a shade deck and the most wonderful guide in the whole wide world, Jorge Campoverde--who knew everything and shared it with us with enthusiasm. And he also went snorkeling with us and made sure a panga was nearby if anyone had any trouble (no one did). We saw his "vegetarian" sharks, sea turtles, 3 or 4 types of sea urchins, sea stars, and many, many kinds of tropical fish including the most beautiful parrot fish-even schools of fish that formed rivers. And we had the thrill of having sea lions swim with us on several different occasions. Jorge took us wading in the surf on one island--and stingrays swam over our feet--caressing us with their velvety bodies!! 

We were so lucky to see nesting blue-footed boobies and the mating dances of these boobies, nesting frigate birds with their wonderful rituals of inflating their throat pouches--throwing their heads back and spreading their wings, nesting brown pelicans, and even nesting waved albatrosses with their wonderful mating ritual of loudly clacking their beaks together and then suddenly pointing to the sky. Then we flew back to Quito for a night and were lucky enough to see the largest hummingbird in the world! 

Our sincere thanks for arranging such a great trip for us!

Very Best Regards, 

Joanne G. and Cathy K.
 
[Last names withheld in compliance with the LARC privacy policy.]

 

April 28, 2004

Dear Judy,

We got back Mon pm. Everything you arranged worked out perfectly and was altogether excellent! We had a great time, both on land and in the Galapagos (even saw a pod of Minke whales on their way to the Antarctic).

Our compliments to you and the organizations you utilize.

J. P.
   [name withheld in compliance with the LARC privacy policy.]
  

April 16, 2004

Hi Matt - We are safely and happily back from Ecuador (actually it's been a week of readjustment). I wanted to let you know that it was an outstanding and very successful trip. The logistical arrangements were excellent and the stress level gratifyingly low. As you may know, the Galapagos cruise is quite busy with early wake up calls and twice daily expeditions, so it is more an active than restful event. The Explorer [Galapagos Explorer II] was a good choice. The cabins were indeed very comfortable and the guides excellent. (I gather the Metropolitan Touring boats may have a higher level of attention to service than Conodros, although we found it fine). In particular, the kids had a great time befriending one of the younger guides and will probably stay in touch with him. 

One of Alec's classmates was on the boat for the second part of the trip and we got to know her family, as well as a family from Florida with a girl Annabel's age and a number of other very nice people. The weather was great, the water warm for snorkeling, even at Isabella. I think the snorkeling, which literally included swimming with sea lions and turtles, was the high point. Lots of breeding activity among the boobies, frigate birds and iguanas made the shore visits very interesting. On the whole, I think this may be a better time to visit than the summer, when it's cooler and foggy.

The highland part of the visit was outstanding and we're very pleased to have done that as well. Mansion del Angel is a charming hotel in perhaps the best location for touring in Quito. They gave us the best rooms (as did La Mirage). The Metro Touring guide (Andrea) was very pleasant, knowledgeable and accommodating to our interests. The Old City has really been improved in the past few years and gives none of the impression of danger that the tour books suggest. We had plenty to see there on Sunday, including a procession complete with iconic statue and accompanying band. Two high school students introduced themselves to us and invited the kids to address their English class, which we did first thing Monday morning - 30 teenage girls who were very impressed
with Alec. It was a great opportunity to go beyond the normal tourist fare.

The Mitad del Mundo was definitely worthwhile despite our doubts. It came with a very nice lunch overlooking a volcanic crater and the ethnographic museum was worth seeing. Papallacta was a bit disappointing because of poor weather (it was of course the rainy season in the rain forest, but it was cold as well as rainy). The cabin was
charming and we enjoyed swimming the hot springs and a short hike. We left a few hours early given the weather and attractiveness of Quito.

La Mirage was outstanding. It really is one of the best hotels we've been to anywhere; very glad we arranged for three nights, which went very smoothly. We were the only guests on first night; some of our shipboard friends arrived the next two nights. The service was absolutely superb, the rooms and grounds were great, the food probably the best we had. Our shopping exploits were also a major success, topped off by Alec having a long leather "Matrix" coat (if you get the reference) custom made by an accommodating family shop in half a day for
$95. The hotel supplied another excellent guide/driver team and we all agreed this was the perfect end to the trip.

So thank you for all your efforts to pull it together for us on such short notice. I'm sure we'll continue to be in touch. Everyone sends best regards.  

D.   [name withheld in compliance with the LARC privacy policy.]
 

March 08, 2004

Read what happy traveler George Pike had to say about his visit to Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands during February and March 2004 in:
It's Ecuador, By George! 

Text and photographs used with the permission of the author.  
 

January 14, 2004

postcardsforyou.com

Read: On A Magical Journey to Ecuador 
- Story and photos by Sheila Shalhevet
Reprinted by permission of PostcardsForYou.com and the author.  
 

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September 22, 2003

Travel Weekly Logo

Read the article Hand In Hand from the September 22 issue of Travel Weekly and see what they had to say about LARC.
 

July 14, 2003

Hi Judy-

I want you to know that my trip to the Galapagos and Cuyabeno was great. Thank you for all your help. It was great to receive the vouchers at the hotel and have someone there to meet us when we first arrived. 

[name withheld in compliance with the LARC privacy policy.]
 

March 6, 2003

Judy-

Just back from a fantastic trip. We very much appreciated your recommendations and attention to detail in the planning. As expected, the highlight of the trip was La Mirage - worth the trip for the rose sorbet in candied rose petals! We also thoroughly enjoyed Mansion del Angel - delightful, helpful staff in a beautiful house in a terrific location.

The other place I can't recommend highly enough is Hacienda San Agustin [de Callo] -built on top of old Incan ruins, near Cotopaxi, it is magical.

And finally, you were right about Guayaquil. The bad press is outdated. The people were friendly, we did not feel unsafe, and the Malencon should be the envy of city planners everywhere. It puts our waterfront in Washington DC to shame.

(By the way, we had lots of scuba gear going to the Galapagos. Our concerns about TAME were unfounded - we were charged $10 in overweight gear on the way over, and nothing on the way back.)


Thanks again, 
L.
   [name withheld in compliance with the LARC privacy policy.]
  

February 13, 2003

Hi Judy,

Tracy has always wanted to go to the Galapagos -- I'm glad she's finally doing it!

Cheryl and I had a fantastic time. It was a very special and memorable trip. We loved our Galapagos guide, Hanzel, and the folks who helped us on the mainland couldn't have been nicer or more accommodating. We had that whole disconnect on the return from Galapagos and our itinerary not showing the Cotopaxi tour, but you all managed to straighten it out. And, since Cotopaxi was fogged in, they volunteered to take us to Banos instead, which was a great treat and so unexpected. I mean, how many times do you make arrangements and then the weather goes crap and you're told "oh well, tough break." Our guides were bound and determined to show off their country and show us a good time. It was absolutely fantastic. We still fondly reminisce and will warmly reflect on our trip forever! 

A.
   [name withheld in compliance with the LARC privacy policy.]
  

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August 17, 2002

Dear Judy, [President of LARC]
  
You are unbelievable. In my many, many years of travel I have never had so attentive and thorough a travel agent. 
  
Sincerely, 
  
S.
 [name withheld in compliance with the LARC privacy policy.]
  

July 3, 2002

[Regarding a visit to the Galapagos Islands]

Hi Judy, 

     what a wonderful trip we had!!  Thanks for all of your help in making it happen (only problem is that our bag with snorkel gear never made it on the TAME flight...)  But these days, that's a small problem!  What a beautiful place, swam with lots of sea lions and penguins!  

Best regards and thanks again, 

E.  [name withheld in compliance with the LARC privacy policy.]
 

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June 28, 2001

THIS IS A NOTE JACK HANNAH WROTE TO A NINE YEAR OLD GIRL WHO SAW HIS PICTURE IN OUR WEBSITE!  

  
Hi Shelby!

Great hearing from you! And, I'm glad you are so interested in saving endangered animals--we need more people like you...

It's really tough for one person to do a lot--one of the best ways is to interest as many of your friends as possible. Spreading the word is the best way so that as your generation grows up and eventually is in charge of the world, you can help to save animals and their habitats.

Other than that, you can give money to worthy organizations that support endangered species. Partners in Conservation at my zoo, the Columbus Zoo, raises money to help save the mountain gorillas in Rwanda. There are many organizations like this that help different animals (you can probably find more by searching the internet).

You can raise money a lot of different ways--you probably have done some of that in school (bake sales, car washes, etc.). In fact, if you can't organize it on your own, ask your class to do it as a project!

Well, Shelby, I hope this helps--good luck!

Your pal,
Jungle Jack
  

We at LARC encourage everyone to support wildlife conservation.  
 

June 8, 2001

Dear Judy,

Thanks to you, we had a phenomenal time in the Galapagos and mainland Ecuador. Our naturalist guide, Franklin, was not only very knowledgeable about the flora, fauna and geology of the Galapagos, but also showed tremendous pride and respect for the islands. The crew of the Beluga was extremely gracious and attentive. When we came ashore at our first visitor site, North Seymour, and were surrounded by Blue-footed Boobies and Great
Frigates, we discovered that the batteries in our camera were dead and the spare ones we brought were dead as well. Franklin immediately contacted the captain on the boat, who found extra batteries in our room and personally brought them to us in another panga boat. We were extremely grateful and impressed.

We lucked out in that our boat was not full (8 passengers for the first four nights and then just four of us for the remaining three nights) and Jeff and another passenger, Alan, even had a chance to play soccer with the crew and the locals from Floreana.

Rafael, the driver for La Mirage, was very professional and we enjoyed the drives with him from the airport to La Mirage, the Saturday market at Otavalo, the local villages, and back to Quito, stopping for lunch at Hacienda Cusin.

La Mirage was the perfect place to come to after being on a boat for a week. We loved our suite, which exceeded the size of our Manhattan apartment. The La Mirage staff was very attentive. The new Shaman treatment at the spa was a unique experience and something I would recommend. Thank you for the lovely bottle of wine. We met a couple from California during our stay at La Mirage, and it was clear that their travel agent did not provide them with the caliber of service that LARC provided to us.

Mansion Del Angel was a welcome oasis in an otherwise bustling Quito.  Jeff came down with a bad stomach bug (requiring paramedics to come) and the staff went above and beyond for us - running to the pharmacy for medicine, walking me to bank (just to be safe) and showing great concern for us.

We have recommended your services to a number of people already and will continue to do so.

Thanks again!

Best,

D G T
   [name withheld in compliance with the LARC privacy policy.]
  

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June 21, 2000

Thanks from me, Ken and all the participants on our Galapagos  (diving) trip last month. Everyone had a great time, and the side trips made it a great trip. The four who went to MP (Machu Picchu) thought it was a good trip. They took the train but decided to walk part of the way: they were told it was a 2 hr. walk, but it took them 6 hours. They laughed about it.  They report the hotel in Cuzco was first rate, as was the hotel at MP. We connected up with Aggressor Fleet without problems. They have a rep in Guayaquil now, who took care of all the transfers.

TAME had a baggage maximum of 20 kgs. One way, the rep talked them out of 400 lbs. of excess baggage charges, and we tipped her well. The excess baggage charge is $1US per pound. Coming back, they allowed us to air cargo the excess, which went on the same flight for a lot less money: 300 lbs. for about $30.

The only real problem we had was on the Continental flight home. They insisted they would only take 2 checked bags at 70#, in spite of the fact we pointed out to them that we had paid excessive baggage charges on the way in (the plane was half empty on departure). They gave us no alternatives. We finally talked to the supervisor, who quietly advised us to take the extra bag with us. Once at the airplane ramp, they said they were too big to go on the plane, and checked them for us (without charge).

The Sierra Madre Hotel was quaint and acceptable. However, they have 5 floors and no elevator. The hotel people were very nice and helpful, and allowed us to leave our dive bags there while we went to Otavalo.

La Mirage Hotel in Otavalo was superb. The hotel was empty except for one other couple. The hotel said that they had very low occupancy in May and June: most of their business comes in the summer and during the holiday season. The food was the best ever, and they had a good selection of Chilean wine.

La Mirage tells us that they also have a hotel in Quito, in the same area as the Sierra Madre, called the Mansion del Angel. It is small, with only 8 rooms, but the same quality.
The tour arranged by the hotel was great. We bought sweaters and wall hangings and blankets at the Indian Village (what a way to live). The Indian Market was fun to see. The leather shop had quality merchandise which would have cost hundreds in the US, and bakery shop was interesting. We bought and bought and bought.

Once again, thanks for a great trip, and for putting up with our complicated demands.

   [name withheld in compliance with the LARC privacy policy.]

   

Fall 2000

Jack Hanna and his photographer recently went on an excursion to Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands, which was arranged by LARC Travel.  Material for "Jack Hanna's Animal Adventures" was filmed during that visit.  
   

RIGHT:  "Jungle" Jack Hanna sends his regards:  "To Judy, Best Wishes!" 
    --  Jack Hanna

   

BELOW:  Jack's Photographer, Rick Prebeg, gives high praise to Judy Martin (LARC's president) and LARC: 

"To Judy, Thanks for all the help in Ecuador & [the] Galapagos - LARC's the Best!"      -- Rick Prebeg

Rick Prebeg gives high praise to LARC Travel and Judy Martin

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